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Smith's mask a special tribute to veterans

Tuesday, 11.11.2008 / 1:05 PM / Hockey's Finest Presented by Army

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Raising awareness of current events is something artist David Arrigo feels should be at the forefront of our society.

Fortunately for the 39-year-old Toronto native, Arrigo is able to do just that through his signature Live Mural Experience, and most recently, the masks of several of the NHL's most prominent puck stoppers.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith had Arrigo create four goalie masks, including the most recent, a Veterans Day/Remembrance Day tribute cage. According to Arrigo, the mask, which took him just 2 1/2 days to complete, is a tribute to all the brave souls who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

"I created a few masks for Mike and we've progressed over the last year and done a number of specialty masks, like the Grinch (for Christmas) and the Saw V cage," Arrigo said. "But Smitty sent me an e-mail asking, 'What's next, Veterans Day?' And the funny thing was I had one of his practice masks sitting around and just asked him to trust me on this one. Normally he and I work closely to design the mask, but with this one, we were short on time and he was on the road, so I just took it and went with it."

Depicted on the mask is the logo of every NHL team, the NHLPA logo, the NHL logo and the phrase "United We Stand" on the chin, with a compass below. Over the left ear is the Canadian flag with a poppy and bag piper, and on the right is the American flag with military boots, roses and a horn player blowing Taps.
On the back of the mask is the term "Lest we forget," along with a yellow ribbon.

When Arrigo presented the mask to Smith during Tampa's trip to Toronto last month, the 26-year-old goalie was "blown away."

"I started off with the Canadian and American concepts and then took it to the next level by incorporating 'United We Stand' on the chin," Arrigo said. "I thought, what better way to have the unification of the entire League than having every NHL team, the NHL logo and team logos right on the mask. I understand in the past there have been certain animosities between teams and between the League and the players' association, but on a day like this, it's great for all of us to unite. The way I look at it, it doesn't matter if you believe in the war or not, the fact is the boys and girls protecting our interest overseas didn't have a choice and we should support them 100 percent."
"One thing I pride myself on is trying to capture the personality. That's the greatest thing I enjoy about doing the masks. It's a challenge to collect the personality-type of the individual you're painting for, and it doesn't matter if it's an NHL goalie or a 6-year-old girl playing hockey for the first time."
-- Artist / helmet designer David Arrigo
Arrigo not only enjoys expressing his personality through the paintings, but capturing the essence of the individual wearing his piece.

"One thing I pride myself on is trying to capture the personality," Arrigo said. "That's the greatest thing I enjoy about doing the masks. It's a challenge to collect the personality-type of the individual you're painting for, and it doesn't matter if it's an NHL goalie or a 6-year-old girl playing hockey for the first time. A lot of people I'm designing for aren't familiar with my style of painting in the sense that when I talk to them, I ask them so many different questions and I want to make sure that they're 100 percent in agreement in everything I say."

Beside Smith, Arrigo has created masks for Los Angeles goalie Jason LaBarbera, Colorado's Andrew Raycroft, former Ottawa goalie Ray Emery and Tampa Bay's Riku Helenius.

He also noted a special part of Smith's veterans mask that might not be seen by the fans in the stand or on television.

"I put this color shift over the top so that when Mike tilts his head, the black paint actually shifts to every color in the spectrum," Arrigo said. "It's pretty sharp but is tough to see from far away."

He's looking forward to painting the mural to celebrate Montreal's Centennial Season during NHL All-Star weekend in January.

"Montreal has such a rich history and so many of their players are in the Hockey Hall of Fame," Arrigo said. "I could probably paint 10 canvases than just my normal size, but I'll be choosing 10-15 players who have played for the Canadiens in previous All Star Games. I'll probably get there a week before the actual game and begin the mural (approximately 17 feet high by 22 feet wide). While I'm painting, I welcome anyone to come over and start conversations because that's what I enjoy most -- talking about painting and listening to ideas.

"The bottom line is these helmets are designed to raise awareness because we've become so complacent in our society with the media that there's a war going on and it's almost become second nature," Arrigo said. "You kind of forget that there are brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins and friends fighting for our freedom. When someone sees the mask, they'll remember."

Contact Mike Morreale at

Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer

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